Since the beginning of the Jewish religion, women have had what seems to be a marginalized role that encompasses almost every facet of life. In many cases within the body of Jewish texts, clear misogynist statements and commentary are made dealing with every aspect of what it means to be female. Within the Orthodox movement, these restrictions appear to be the most prevalent. Through examination of the role of women within the key elements of the Orthodox Jewish life cycle: birth, adolescence, adulthood, and death, I hope to discover whether the female discriminatory point of view of Jewish Orthodoxy is founded or if the traditional ways of the Orthodox community are simply misunderstood.
BASICS OF JUDAISM
It is difficult to understand the role of women within a religion without a basic understanding of the religion in question; especially if talking of Judaism. It is now important to recognize that for faithful Jews, everything, whether within religious or secular life, revolves around religious laws or mitzvot (singular mitzvah).(1) The Jewish way of life encompasses every aspect of human endeavor. There is a verse in the Book of Isaiah: God desired for his righteousness’ sake to make the Torah great and glorious.” (Isaiah 42:21) This verse was interpreted in rabbinic Judaism to mean that God provided many opportunities for people to acquire righteousness by giving them a multitude of commandments covering every situation in life. Orthodox Jews recognize 613 mitzvot. Whether a Jew is conducting business, preparing a meal, or doing any other thing a person might do, there is a mitzvah to give direction to that activity. In understanding this, it becomes clear why it is so difficult for women to question Orthodox Jewish beliefs.
Historically, Judaism began around 2000 B.C.E -1600 B.C.E. during what is commonly called the Age of the Patriarchs. It began in the Middle East around...
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